Though not celebrated for its ground game, BYU does have a pair of tailbacks who each gained more than 500 yards rushing. One, Eric Lane, scored five touchdowns against Utah State, an NCAA high for the season, and averaged 6.3 yards a carry. The other tailback, Homer Jones, is so versatile that in national rankings he placed fifth in kickoff returns, seventh in all-purpose running and 11th in receiving.
If BYU has a weakness, it is its offensive line, which, supposedly, is rebuilding. But then, Tackle Nick Eyre was All-WAC last season, as was Tight End Clay Brown, who doubles as a punter and last year led the country with a 45.3-yard average. Moreover, among the newcomers, Guard Calvin Close started two years ago and Tackle Ray Linford was a projected starter for 1979 until he underwent an appendectomy in September. When Texas A&M All-America Jacob Green played nose-to-nose against Eyre last September he made exactly zero tackles all game.
Six of BYU's top eight linemen return to a defense that was the stingiest in the WAC (yielding 11 points a game). Most notable are End Glen Titensor, the team leader in what is called "quarterback hurries," and Tackle Pulusila Filiaga, whom everybody calls "Junior." Linebacker Glen Redd is going to be heard from, too.
LaVell Edwards became the Cougar coach in 1972, taking over a 5-6 team at a school that had never gone to a bowl game. That year BYU finished 7-4. Since then Edwards' teams have won or shared four WAC titles, received four bowl bids and popped in and out of the Top 20. Edwards has been blessed with marvelous quarterbacks: Gary Sheide, Nielsen, Wilson, and now McMahon. "The way for us to compete," he says, "is to play sound defense, then try to pass the other team dizzy."
Let us now pay homage to Purdue quarterbacks, and in particular the incumbent. As he begins his senior year, Mark Herrmann has already surpassed the career records of Len Dawson, Bob Griese and Mike Phipps. If his name isn't familiar, well, Purdue didn't appear on network TV once last year though it had a 10-2 record and defeated Tennessee in the Bluebonnet Bowl. The oversight will be remedied on Sept. 6, when the Boilermakers meet Notre Dame and get national exposure. A good showing could serve as a springboard for Herrmann's Heisman hopes and Purdue's bid for a third straight bowl game.
So steamed up are Purdue fans that they have been permitting themselves thoughts of breaking the 12-year-old Michigan-Ohio State hold on the Rose Bowl. Even Boilermaker Pete, the school's paper-hatted mascot, has been given a tougher look, which may match that of the team.
Big question: Can Herrmann compensate for a defense that's being rebuilt? Purdue plays what it calls a "junk defense," a shifting five-man front composed of three interior linemen and two outside linebackers. Three of last year's five starters on that front moved on to the NFL. Still on hand is Tackle Calvin Clark, a quick, 6'5", 260-pounder referred to by Coach Jim Young as "the key." The other holdover is an outside linebacker, Tom (Kamikaze) Kingsbury. He earned his nickname by leading the team in tackles and as captain of the specialty squads.
The Boilermakers hope to force opponents to the air this year because they boast one of the best secondaries in school history. Safety Bill Kay tied for the Big Ten lead last year with seven interceptions.
So much for defense. That's not what's selling out Ross-Ade Stadium. Herrmann is. During spring drills he wore a flak jacket similar to the one Dan Pastorini used after he injured his ribs at Houston, and he often throws from a shotgun formation, the better to keep unfriendly paws off him. "The more I throw the ball, the more accurate I get," says Herrmann. "It's a rhythm thing." In 1979 he completed 203 of 348 for 56.6%.